In current-day San Francisco, reporter Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater) interviews the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt). He describes his life as a plantation owner in Spanish Louisiana in 1791. Depressed after the death of his wife and unborn child, he wanders the waterfront of New Orleans and is attacked by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise), who offers to turn him into a vampire. He agrees but later regrets his decision. Lestat revels in the hunt and kill, but Louis resists and sustains himself on animal blood.
During a plague, Louis feeds on a young girl (10-year-old Kirsten Dunst) and makes her a vampire as well. They raise her as a daughter and a protegé. Thirty years later, she has matured but remains physically a young girl, angry that she will never grow up. She tells Louis they should leave Lestat. She tricks him into drinking blood tainted with laudanum and slits his throat. Louis helps her dump his body in a swamp. While they plan to leave for Europe, Lestat returns, having lived on the blood of animals in the swamp. Louis sets Lestat on fire and they escape to their ship.
Finding no other vampires, they settle in Paris in 1870. Louis meets Santiago (Stephen Rea) and Armand (Antonio Banderas) at the Theatre des Vampires horror show for humans. Santiago reads their minds and learns that they killed Lestat. Louis sends Claudia away for her safety and stays with Armand. Claudia demands that Louis turn Madeleine (Domiziana Gorono) into a vampire to protect her. The Parisian vampires abduct them and punish them for Lestat’s murder, sealing Louis in a coffin and exposing Claudia and Madeleine to the sun. Louis is freed by Armand and sets the theatre on fire, killing them all.
The decades pass and Louis never recovers from the loss of Claudia. Alone, he returns to New Orleans and discovers a decayed Lestat, living as a recluse in a mansion, drinking rat’s blood. Louis refuses to join him. After the interview, Malloy begs to be converted, but Louis is outraged that Malloy has learned nothing from his horrific tale. Malloy is driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and Lestat appears, feeds on Malloy and offers him the choice to be a vampire or not.
The film was directed by Neil Jordan, based on Anne Rice’s 1976 novel. It was released to positive reviews and was a great success. It received Oscar nominations for Art Direction and Music, and Kirsten Dunst received a Golden Globe nomination. The film changed hands for a while and was then given to Neil Jordan to direct because of his success with The Crying Game. David Geffen produced. Anne Rice had wanted Alain Delon to play Louis and Julian Sands to play Lestat. But the studio gave that role to Tom Cruise. She hated the idea but later changed her mind. At one point, because of Hollywood homophobia, she rewrote Louis as female and wanted Cher to play the role.
River Phoenix was to play Molloy, but he died before filming began. Only Kirsten Dunst was tested for Claudia. Brad Pitt was disappointed in the character of Louis compared to that in the book and hated the constant filming in the dark. City streets wre darkened for filming. Stan Winston, heading Digital Domain, did the effects. He had to fight to get the job because people thought he only did dinosaurs. The actors were hung upside-down so their veins would protrude and could be painted blue. The transformation into vampires were cutting-edge effects. Oprah Winfree was appalled by the violence and almost cancelled an interview with Tom Cruise.
Rice’s novel The Queen of the Damned was adapted ten years later. She hated the result and so did the critics. Other projects concerning her novels never happened. Kirsten Dunst was not allowed to see the film when it was released because she was twelve. She did the film when she was ten and thought kissing Brad Pitt was disgusting. After the film’s release, a man named Daniel Sterling stabbed his girlfriend and drank her blood, but she lived and he was convicted of attempted murder. I thought Dracula and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was lush and romantic. This film was darker, brooding, and filled with angst. I was rather surprised at how good Tom Cruise was in the role, frankly.